It’s official; I completed a “real” ultra marathon. Technically, this is my third ultra but the first two were 50Ks or five miles beyond the marathon distance. They’re considered Ultras, but in my mind, 50 miles was the legitimate test. I first stumbled upon the Ice Age 50 two years ago and contemplated entering. It wasn’t until after surviving the Hawkeye 50K and taking a break from marathons that I got the courage to sign up. I thought the spring would provide the perfect time to ramp up the mileage. My training wasn’t very specific and mostly just made up along the way.
A typical training week consisted of the following…
- Tuesday: 7 mile hilly route (Vibram Five Fingers) for speed and strength
- Wednesday: 5 mile easy run (Asics Shoes)… sometimes rest, if tired
- Thursday: 7 mile hilly route (Vibram Five Fingers) for speed and strength
- Friday: 5 mile easy run (Asics Shoes)…sometimes rest, if tired
- Saturday: 3-5 hours (Asics Shoes), usually signed up for a local race and ran to and from the race
- Sunday: 3-5 hours (Asics Shoes), wasn’t concerned with mileage, just getting comfortable with running on tired legs
- Monday: Rest and rebuild muscles
- Totally weekly mileage varied from 50-75 miles.
- I also joined a Kettle Bell class on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help with overall strength, but especially the core.
- My diet was vegetarian with the last two months, “Slow Carb”.
- My speed actually increased during training with new PRs in the mile and 5k distances (probably due to the Vibrams)
Michelle and I drove over to Elk Horn, Wisconsin the night before the race. We got a late start and arrive at the Crossroads Motel just after 10:30pm. The front desk lady said we were the last to arrive and looked slightly relieved that she too, could go to bed. The Motel was super clean but had furnishings from 1973. It was more cozy than outdated, but too bad we only got to enjoy it for six hours! The next morning we were up at 4:30 and on the road to Kettle Moraine State Park by five. The 50 mile started and 6:00am and I still had to pick up my race number, timing chip and pack my drop off bag. The race allows runners to pack a drop off bag which they will transport for you to a spot in the middle of the run. I threw in an extra pair of socks, shirt, Clif Bars and Ibuprofen.
After the national anthem, 300 runners started off down the Nordic Trail and into the forest. The first loop was 9 miles long, which I was very conservative. I obeyed the “walk uphill rule” and stayed back.
Once we passed the start/ finish line again, the course took us to the southern out/ back section (20 miles). I believe this is the actual Ice Age Trail and was mostly hilly single track. I mostly stayed behind a group of runners from Chicago. They sounded like veterans so I figured it was a smart move to hang with them.
Michelle also met me at the Aid stations and we chatted. It was nice to drink, eat, and rest, but at the same time, I knew I had a long ways to go.
At mile 26 or just over the half way point I found my drop bag and changed shirts. It had been sprinkling for the last couple hours and the clean, dry shirt felt nice. The Ibuprofen also seemed to help. At the aid stations I made sure to drink a cup of Heed or sugar-free electrolyte drink. Sometimes it tasted terrible but I knew it would help keep the cramps at bay. My foods of choice were pretzels, little sandwich cookies and PB&Js. The aid stations were no further than 5 miles apart so my handheld water bottle held enough water to get me to the next one.
I started the northern out/ back section feeling good. What a surprise! I expected to hit a low around 30 miles and again at 40. Whatever the reason, I just kept going and didn’t think much of it. By the time I hit 45 miles, I knew finishing wasn’t going to be a problem. In fact, I started picking up the pace. Those last five miles seemed to fly by and I was passing other runners like crazy. (Really, I started too slow, and saved way too much)
At last, the finish line was in sight. Michelle was waiting along with a good sized crowd cheering us on. For my efforts, I received a silver belt buckle. We stuck around afterwards and eat some hot food, chatted with other runners, and then started the dreaded drive back home. Overall, the race was well organized and the course was challenging but worth it for the views.
Finishing Time: 10 Hours 34 Minutes 37 Seconds
Place: 130 out of 222 Finishers (I think around 300 started)